Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 177–191 | Cite as

Scandal or sex crime? Gendered privacy and the celebrity nude photo leaks

  • Alice E. MarwickEmail author
Original Paper


In 2014, a large archive of hacked nude photos of female celebrities was released on 4chan and organized and discussed primarily on Reddit. This paper explores the ethical implications of this celebrity nude photo leak within a frame of gendered privacy violations. I analyze a selection of a mass capture of 5143 posts and 94,602 comments from /thefappening subreddit, as well as editorials written by female celebrities, feminists, and journalists. Redditors justify the photo leak by arguing the subjects are privileged because they are celebrities; that the celebrities are at fault for failing to appropriately protect their information; and that the only person ethically responsible for the leak is the hacker. The popular press primarily took a feminist perspective, linking the photo leak to institutionalized sexism and misogyny. I argue that the Reddit participants frame the privacy violations within a context of geek masculinity, in which references to masturbation and pornography and casually misogynist language are used to signify a normative masculine self. Privacy violations are de-emphasized when the victims are women and gender or feminist concerns are rejected. Entitlement to viewing women’s bodies and male sexual desire are prioritized over ethical concerns over privacy violations. The paper contributes to understanding how privacy violations are normatively gendered and reinforced by gender inequality.


Reddit Revenge porn Sexting Celebrities Gender and privacy Online misogyny 



The author would like to thank Dr. Elena Filatova (New York City College of Technology) and Dr. Alex Leavitt (Facebook Research) for their assistance collecting data from Reddit. Many thanks to the Data & Society Research Institute for supporting this research with a Fellowship. Earlier versions of this work were presented at the Privacy Research Group at the Information Law Institute at NYU Law School; Hunter College; and at the 2016 Association of Internet Researchers annual meeting. Thank you to everyone who provided help and feedback.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of CommunicationUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Data & Society Research InstituteNew YorkUSA

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